Hello and good day!
If you are looking for an absolutely fascinating book to read, please consider the book America Before by Graham Hancock.
It is one of the most mind-expanding books I've ever read. There are too many gems in the book to even offer a small sampling.
However, given that we are in the cacao and chocolate business, I do want to share some food for thought that touches our field of endeavor. That being said, allow me to share an overall theme from the book.
Ancient civilizations may have been much, much more advanced than we generally give them credit for. I'll allow that statement to stand on its own for the time being.
Now on to cacao.
For a very long time, the narrative about chocolate was that Europeans found out about cacao and chocolate from the Aztecs in Mexico. The Aztecs roasted and ground cacao and used it for drinking chocolate. It was mostly a privilege of the royal family and the upper echelon of society.
When the Spanish came over and conquered the Aztecs, they took cacao back to Europe and it was a big hit. Later on, it was found that the Incas also used cacao extensively, especially as a stimulant.
Particularly fascinating to think about are the Incan runners. The Incas didn't have a written language or good animals for mounting and riding.
Europeans brought over horses.
The Incan communication system was a network of runners. Somebody important would tell a message to a runner and he or she would take off sprinting to a resting place in the communication network. They'd tell the message to the next runner and then the next runner would take off sprinting for the next station and so forth. In this way, information traveled quickly throughout the vast, 4,300-mile-long Incan empire.
Those runners drank cacao for energy.
However, by the time the Spanish started colonizing Peru, they already knew about cacao from their previous interactions with the Aztecs.
In any event, human use of cacao had long been thought to be a relatively recent phenomenon, something that cropped up within the last thousand to fifteen hundred years or so.
This theory was disproved by an archeological dig that was carried out just about 20 miles north of where we buy cacao. Along the Chinchipe River, which is the river that runs right in front of the canyon where we buy cacao, an archeologist found a bowl with mashed up cacao residue in it.
The bowl and the cacao were dated as being 5,000 years old. That is very, very old. The bowl means that people living along the Chinchipe River 5,000 years ago were already adept at making fairly sophisticated receptacles.
And obviously the mashed cacao means that people were cultivating and post-harvest processing cacao a very, very long time ago. As an aside, it is probably the exact same genetic variety of cacao that we use in our chocolate.
It is pretty well accepted that cacao is native to the Amazon jungle. From there it has spread to the entire world. It is now grown and farmed on just about every continent, near the equator.
Here is the tie into the book mentioned above. Graham Hancock makes the case that there could have been a gigantic lost Amazonian civilization. By lost, I mean that it existed, but archeologists and historians haven't studied it extensively yet, and therefore most people haven't heard of it.
It has long been held that the soil in the Amazon jungle is not fertile enough for a farming civilization to have survived there. The accepted belief is that there only could have been hunter gatherers in small numbers.
This is why clear cutting the Amazon jungle to try and plant out large-scale soy and palm plantations is a bad idea. They won't be sustainable and will become uneconomic rather quickly.
However, one of the unintended consequences of clear cutting the Amazon for plantation farming has been the discovery of vast amounts of artifacts. In particular, sites are being found with structures that are typically associated with large scale, advanced, farming civilizations.
For example, monoliths that appear to be accurately coordinated with celestial activity. Comprehension of astronomy is not something that hunter gatherer societies exhibit. They don't tend to have an intellectual class. But it isn't just the existence of the sophisticated structures that is causing scientists to rethink their assumptions.
It is the vast quantities they are finding. Some are estimating that there may be 50,000 advanced structures, or more, hidden in the Amazon jungle. This suggests a potential population of 20 million people living in the Amazon jungle at a time when London was a city of just 50 thousand.
Hancock's theory is that smallpox wiped out this civilization in short order and the jungle grew over the proof of its existence in a matter of a couple of decades.
Here are a couple other pieces of fascinating evidence. The plants that dominate the virgin, unindustrialized, Amazon jungle are human centric. They are food trees for people.
That would not be the case unless humans intentionally propagated those plants. The way that Graham Hancock describes the Amazon is as a huge, cultivated garden, not a wild jungle. In other words, the Amazon as it exists in modern times is a result of human design.
Another piece of fascinating evidence is the discovery of synthetic fertilizers in sections of the Amazon that are better and more advanced than fertilizers created by modern scientists.
This has me thinking about an ancient, humungous civilization in the Amazon Jungle who learned about cacao and found it to be worthy.
One other thing I should mention. The human fossils they are finding in the Amazon don't match the normal native American profile. Some of the fossils are much more Polynesian and African in appearance.
This could mean that there were inhabitants in the Americas who didn't migrate from northern Asia over the Bering land bridge. Certain groups of people may have come in a different way and set up a flourishing civilization currently unknown to history.
And those might be the first people to make chocolate.
I am running out of space on this for now.Thank you so much for your time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!